As part of their plans to reopen, states are moving quickly to stand up contact tracing programs to help address COVID-19. Community health workers (CHWs) are essential for contact tracing programs because of their close relationships with both patients and health care systems in their communities, their understanding of community culture, and their knowledge of the social supports needed to help people through this pandemic. Given CHWs’ proven effectiveness working within underserved communities to address the social and structural drivers of health inequities, states should include them in their COVID-19 response efforts, particularly in contact tracing.
To make CHWs an effective component of their contact tracing efforts, states must:
- Include CHWs in targeted, community-based contact tracing initiatives.
- Dedicate current and new funding to including CHWs in their contact tracing efforts.
- Tap into the existing CHW workforce and certify, train, and hire new CHWs for contact tracing.
- Engage CBOs, state and local CHW networks and associations, and county health departments in developing a contact tracing workforce that includes CHWs.
- Hire and recruit CHWs for roles beyond contact tracing to ensure that COVID-19 patients’ additional health and social needs are met.